Friday, February 22, 2008

O-Cha Washi Tin and Kabusecha Sencha

After a long week, and an extra mail delay due to President's day, I received my O-cha order. Highlighted in the order are the new O-cha Tamaryokucha, the Kabusecha sencha, and a beautiful red Washi tin. I ordered the tamaryokucha because I absolutely love this kind of tea (also known as Guricha), and added in the Kabusecha as a daily sencha. I've also been needing more double-lidded tins, which are best for air-tightness, so I added to the order one of each tin. I already had one of the $8 tins, so I knew I could expect a perfect-sized tin with an excellent seal. I decided to buy the washi tin because I thought my tea deserved something beautiful to reside in.

The Washi Green Tea Canisters from O-cha are "handmade with Japanese washi wazome paper" which results in each being a beautiful and individual tin. There's no way to choose which color or design. I thought it would be a welcome surprise, and it was.

The inner lid fits fairly well, and I consider it to be air-tight. The outer-lid is also fairly snug, and perhaps air-tight as well. Double-lidded tins are the best because if theres a flaw in one of the lids, it is usually covered by the other one.

I'm happy I bought the tin, because now I can open my bag of Kabusecha sencha and dump it right in.

Kabusecha Reveiw
The smell of the kabusecha upon opening the bag is not extravagant. Though it does smell great, with a heavy grassiness and a pleasing sweetness. The leaf is not overly broken up and has a nice needle shape. The tin perfectly fits the entire 100 gram bag of sencha after tapping it to help the leaf settle.

How To Brew Sencha
For this session, I will use my small kyuusu which holds around 190mL. I will fill it with hot water first, then pour that water into my chawan (tea bowl, what I drink my sencha from). This will preheat both pieces. I'll then fill the kyuusu with boiled water, and let the water cool to ~176°f. Then I'll throw in 2 teaspoons of leaf and let that steep for 1.5 minutes. That's for the first steep. For the second infusion, I'll put 178°f water into the still-warm kyuusu, and let it steep for 30 seconds total, including the pour. The third will be about 182°f for 80 seconds.

The larger size of the leaf reminds me that this sencha will be less-steamed than what I'm used to. 2 teaspoons is what I usually use for this 190mL teapot, although I wonder if this lesser-steamed sencha would turn out better with more.

1st Infusion
The tea came out very clear, as is usual with first steeps. The color is a very light green which looks more yellow under incandescent light. The aroma is light with deep vegetal notes and a slight grassiness. The taste is also considerably light, yet very delectable. Noted is a mellow sweetness, perhaps from brewing a little cooler. The leaf might want to be brewed hotter, around 180°f to bring out more aroma and heighten the flavors. As it is, the mellow sweetness is accompanied by a broad range of vegetal flavor and partnered with an undertone of grassiness.

As I wash down the final sip of the first steep, I remark that the flavor is not intense. There are not sharp flavors as there are with tamaryokucha, and no extremely bold flavor that we find in fukamushi. The flavor is instead a balance of vegetal and grassy flavors, accompanied all the while by a sweetness.

This "vegetal" flavor I speak of is defined differently by different people. Some people find this "vegetal" flavor to remind them of asparagus, while it reminds some of green beans. It might remind some people of spinach, and still others of broccoli. I call it "vegetal" because I can't find it similar enough to any vegetable in particular to call it by that vegetable.

There seems to be a certain smell residing in my bowl after this steep that is reminding me of "dried up" syrup (syrup never really dries, but gets sticky. Touching the bottom of the bowl insures me that it is not sticky). I've noticed this smell regularly with sencha, and find it interesting. It's intriguing that such a healthy beverage can leave behind a smell that reminds me of liquid sugar.

2nd Infusion
The second steep came out with a greener, cloudier brew, as is usual. Not cloudy enough to be seen of as a good fukamushi, so it is still relatively clear. The aroma is more present than in the first infusion. The aroma is mostly vegetal with the grassy smell all but lost. This infusion is still tasty and sweet. The vegetal flavor is dominant, with side-notes of grass. I want to claim that a slight woodsy taste is present, but it isn't bold enough for me to be sure. The ever-present flavor of this infusion is the vegetalness. I expect successive infusions to just be a downplay of the vegetal flavor, with the hidden caramalized sweetness coming out more dominantly in later steeps.

Overall Impressions: Kabusecha
When I first saw the unbroken nature of the leaf, I expected a brew that was more asamushi (lightly steamed) than I was used to. I've had many asamushis, and the kabusecha reminded me of the general category. The grassiness was a welcome involvement in the flavor, which set it apart from previous asamushis. I enjoy this tea, and welcome it to my tea cabinet as an inexpensive daily drinker. Comparing it to the daily-drinking Sencha Fuka-Midori from Den's tea, I'd rather shell out the extra $6 and get the Kabusecha.

Overall Impressions: Washi Green Tea Canister
The first thing that shows is the tin's beauty. Hand-wrapped with washi wazome paper, and an indent on the lid that helps in lining up the design on the lid to the design on the canister. The function of this tin excels as well. A second inner-lid helps seal the green tea leaf in nicely so that fresh tea can be enjoyed even longer. The best part about this tin is its beauty. If I were to recommend it to anyone, a few words relating to good looks would definitely come up.


Salsero said...

Thanks for the great post, so visually appealling as well as informative.

Since I've been drinking mostly
fukamushi lately, your post reminds me of the joy to be found in asamushi. Also, I just ordered some of Den's Sencha Fuka-Midori to try as an "everyday." Would you say it is more asamushi than fuka, despite the name?

Wes Crosswhite said...

Yes, most definitely. The fuka-midori is still moderately steamed. It has a quite woodsy or roasted flavor to it, so be on the lookout.